A hard stage with the awkward final climb of Monte Cavallo. Hopefully we get two races for the price of one, a breakaway taking time early and then the GC contenders exploiting the final summit finish of the race.
Stage 18 Wrap: the new generation, the next big thing. Pierre Rolland on the previous stage, now Tejay van Garderen. The day before Rolland had said he was encouraged to aim for the GC in grand tours but decided it wasn’t his thing: the pressure, the waiting game, the calculation, the expectation didn’t sit with a rider who preferred to take his chances in a breakaway. Van Garderen might like to compare notes with Rolland. He and Mikel Landa were the two who managed to stay away, dropping their companions on the final descent and beginning the final climb with less than a minute’s lead but managing to extend it during the climb. Near the top of the climb Landa started to look tired, his efforts to secure the maglia blu showing via a few grimaces. Van Garderen tried an attack but shouldn’t shake the Basque so the two sprinted for the line and Landa showed he’s a great climber. Van Garderen finally got a win and the pressure seemed to flood out of his tear ducts.
Behind the GC contenders tried to make a race of it but seemed punch-drunk. Nairo Quintana launched a move with 53km to go but got reeled in fast by Tom Dumoulin and the others. It was the same on the final climb, the main contenders are all climbing on a similar level so that when one rider attacks they get a gap, put themselves in the red, pay the price and get brought back. Except for Thibaut Pinot and Domenico Pozzovivo who clipped away and took a minute in the final kilometres. Neither Tom Dumoulin, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana wanted to chase, nor needed to chase. For all the tactical stalemate the simple result is that Tom Dumoulin could match all of his rivals on such a hard mountain stage and he’s another day closer to Milan. Orica-Scott worked hard all day and cracked Jan Polanc and Bob Jungels to put Adam Yates in the white jersey by 28 seconds over Bob Jungels.
The Route: 175km and the summit finish. There’s climbing along the way but it’s not going to be too selective, a chance for the breakaway to take time rather than for Movistar to crush Sunweb.
The Sella Chianzutan climb is 11.8km at 6.1% but with steeper moments but nothing too hard. The descent is arguably more of interest with its stone paving and tunnels. Then comes 60km across the plains to Aviano and the start of the Giro’s last summit finish.
The Finish: a steep start but it’s all on a big open road. The first half is the steepest part with 10% slopes and long ramps between wide hairpin bends. With 5km to go the road stops climbing the flank of Monte Cavallo and rides across a plateau and it’s more gentle, often 5% before tightening up for 7% between 3km to go and 2km, the last chance for the climbers before the road levels out towards the finish line.
The Contenders: there’s a high chance the breakaway stays away so spin the roulette wheel and take your pick, remembering that the final climb is hard and very selective so the eventual winner has to be fresh this late in the race and a competent climber. So Pierre Rolland, Dario Cataldo, Rui Costa and Omar Fraile come to mind as well as Mikel Landa but spin the wheel again and you could pick Michael Woods, Dylan Theuns or Sacha Foliforov.
Does Tom Dumoulin fancy another stage win? He’s already taken two including one in the maglia rosa but the final climb suits him well, a large road that evens out before the line so he can deploy his punchy finish. Nairo Quintana can try but Dumoulin will still be wary about letting him out of his sight, the same for Vincenzo Nibali. Thibaut Pinot can try to hang with the group and take the win in the sprint.
|Pierre Rolland, Rui Costa|
|Faile, Landa, Woods, Dumoulin, Pinot|
Weather: warm and sunny and a top temperature of 26°C.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CET. There’s live coverage on home broadcaster RAI in Italy and Eurosport for much of Europe and beyond. Otherwise cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for schedules and pirata feeds.